“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall covey the multitude of sins.”
We need to love each other now more than ever.
That’s what the Apostle Peter tells us, “But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves; for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”
We are in the last days, for the end of all things is at hand. This fact demands fervent love. The reason is apparent. The last days are characterized by a multitude of sin! The Word of God gives us the lurid details of such evil days: men shall be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. God will give men over to seducing spirits so that they shall believe the lie. This will bring about the great apostasy and the falling away of many who dwell in the sphere of the church.
We are not immune to sin. We know from the history of the church and past experience that as we face temptations we often fall. This multitude of sin is the multitude of our sins, not just the sins of others.
It is here where love shines forth. Love, fervent love, “covereth a multitude of sin.” The strength of our love is manifest in the way we deal with each other when we sin. “Love covereth a multitude of sin.” That can happen only in one way: when we sin we visit one another in the love of Christ and show to one another the way of repentance and confession and thus fall together under the covering of the blood of Jesus Christ.
We need to heed this exhortation today. There is only one love that can accomplish such things, that is divine love. There are in the Greek language particularly three words that are translated love. The word eros is found only in Classical Greek and not in the New Testament. Our word erotic is derived from it and denotes sensual, especially sexual lust. Another word is phileo, which is found in the New Testament and conveys the idea of love as a friend especially as human concern and kindness. The third word is agapao, which emphasizes the love of God which is manifest to us and dominates our lives.
In our test this third word is used.
It is a sad commentary on our times, that that which calls itself church all too often fails to distinguish the love which believers have for each other in Christ Jesus from the love which the world expresses. There is a fundamental difference: one is human; the other is divine.
We in America are cultured by democracy. Within the framework of this democracy our cherished tradition has become the right of the individual. Our constitutionally guaranteed four-freedoms (speech, press, worship, and assembly) give to the citizen the right to do things as he pleases as long as they conform to a law determined by majority. It follows from this that a good citizen “respects” the opinions of others and grants to each individual the right to give expression to his views on any subject. Since in democracy there is no ultimate criterion for what really is right or wrong, as for example the Bible, we are not to assume that we are right and our neighbor wrong, but we must always allow for the possibility that we may be wrong and the neighbor right. This is carried over into the realm of faith and morals as well. Practically, this means there is no room for criticism of others. If one does this he is labeled arrogant, unkind, or unloving. This same evil notion all too readily creeps into the church, and as soon as it does the exhortation of our test goes out the window.
Let us see how this is true.
The love of which our text speaks is God’s love to us, which in turn we share with one another. This means two things. First, God is the source of love; apart from Him there is no true love, there is only human concern. Secondly, the character of our love for one another is a reflection of this love of God. To put it differently, our love for each other in Christ is the same kind of love God has in Himself and which He gives to us.
What can we say then about God’s love? Briefly, it is the desire of the three Persons of the Trinity to seek each other in the perfect bond of friendship. This indicates the following elements: love is personal, love is mutual (seeks another person), love is giving and receiving (friendship), and finally love is exercised in the sphere of perfection.
This love which God freely exercises within Himself as Triune God, He likewise reveals to His people. In the beginning, God revealed His love to Adam and Eve and entered into a bond of friendship with them in the sphere of the perfect creation. Since the first Adam fell into sin, God now reveals His love to His people within the sphere of Jesus Christ, the Last Adam. It should be apparent to all, that outside of the sphere of Christ there is no love; there is the antithesis of love, hatred and wrath. In the Old Testament the promise of Christ and the typical covering of sin effected through sacrifices comprised the sphere within which God exercised His love unto His people. What clearer picture is there for us than Noah and his family riding safely in the ark, in contrast to the world that was ripe for judgment. Noah was the recipient of the love of God, but the world received wrath. The only basis for this distinction was that, “Noah was saved by water,” a picture of the cross of Calvary.
The love which we are exhorted to show to one another is this same kind of love. First, we seek friendship. We are not content to sit by ourselves; we desire in the love of God to have many friends. We need the friendship of God in Jesus Christ, we need each other as brethren and sisters in Christ. Secondly, we recognize that the sphere within which this love and friendship can be exercised is Jesus Christ. Our friendship cannot be prostituted with the unbeliever in an unequal yoke; we seek those whom God loves, our fellow believers who with us stand under the covering of the blood of Calvary. Thirdly, we recognize that as we are covered with the blood of Christ we must loveeach other in the way of perfect obedience. Our sins are obstacles to the full expression of our mutual love. We can love each other freely, only when we together believe in the only true God revealed in the Scriptures and when we live according to His Word. The more we hold to the perfect will of God, the more fervently we cling to each other in the bond of love. Finally, we persist in seeking that bond of perfection, even when the one whom we love spurns it. Look what we do to God when we sin; yet in His love He seeks us and calls us efficaciously by His grace into the proper sphere. So in love we must seek a wayward brother.
The contrast between the love of the world and the love of the child of God is clearly seen in what we do with each other when we sin. The church imbued with the false conception of love says, oh, we need freedom, to each his own! The man of God who is filled with the love of God in Christ goes to the erring and calls him to repentance.
Peter speaks of a mountain of sin. He’s very realistic. We don’t have to look first of all at the next man; we look first of all at ourselves. Recognizing that we dwell in the last days, we know that temptation is even greater. We are not, called to flee from the world; we must live in the midst of the world and testify against it. Knowing our calling, however, does not mean we consistently walk in it. Our flesh is so weak that we are prone to halt and stumble, sin and evil dwells within. We do the things God forbids, we fail to do the things He commands. Shame covers our faces.
Our sins are terrible. Sin is the power of death, that terrible separation from God. They cause us to tremble. When we continue in sin we cannot love God and we may not expect God to love us. The same thing is true in our relationship with each other. If we continue to wander in sin we cannot love each other; we only hate.
There is only one way that these terrible sins can be removed. They must be confessed, we must repent of our sins and turn to God and seek His will. Only as we forsake ourselves and tearfully stand before the cross of Jesus Christ can we lay hold of the covering of the blood and rest assured that our sins are forgiven.
If the bond of love is to flow freely, our sins must be confessed1 Confessed to God and confessed to one another. Love plans an important role in bringing about this confession.
When we love each other we do not ignore each other’s sins. We grieve when we sin, we grieve no less when our brother sins. We cannot possibly say in love, leave him alone! He may say what he wants, he may write as he pleases, he may act as he feels moved, but I’ll just pay attention to myself. That’s not love. We seek in the love of Christ to remove sin, not only from our life, but also from the life of our brethren. Sin is so terrible it must be covered!
Still more, we do not take pleasure in our brother’s weaknesses. If you know that a certain brother or sister has walked in a way unbecoming to the child of God, or heard that he has, you don’t laugh about it do you? You don’t spend your idle hours gossiping all about the bad things someone has done and forthwith tear that person apart and ignore the person involved? That’s not removing sin, that is only spreading sin and partaking in it!
Love recognizes the terror of sin and knows that it must be confessed. We spend therefore much time together searching the Word of God. Only in the Word can we find the perfect directive for our life. It alone is the Lamp upon our feet and Light upon our pathway. In love we seek to walk according to the will of God ourselves. We seek to have our friends walk in harmony with that same revealed will. These friends may be one’s husband, wife, children, school pupils, brethren in the church, neighbor, or anyone who crosses our pathway. If we sin, we welcome the brother who shows his love to us by coming to us and discussing our walk of life with us. If we behold sin in our brother we will visit him and shine the light of the Word upon him.
God uses such means. No man can convert a sinner from his way, but God can and does use men as means to perform His work. When God beholds the sinner confessing his sin, he looks at the sinner through the covering of the blood of the cross and forgives. When we look at the brother who has sinned and behold him confessing his sin and turning from his evil way, we forgive and forget.
Have fervent love among yourselves, for love covereth a multitude of sins!
Above all things, have this love.
We need it today. We need it in our homes as parents and children. We need it in our schools as pupils and teachers. We need it in our churches as office bearers and congregation. We need it as churches in our dealing with each other and in our relations with believers round about us.
We need fervent love! That kind of love is so profound that it welcomes criticism and receives correction. That love seeks perfection as the only medium in which it can truly express itself.
That love is the precious fruit of the work of Christ Jesus in us. Have that love in your dealing with one another. Should one of us falter upon life’s pathway, there will be one who loves us enough to care.
May God give us His grace that our love may be fervent.